Facing Intimacy Fears
I'm in a long term relationship. How does a couple know the difference between when they're having normal relationship problems and when they might require professional help?
Signed, When To Throw In The Towel
Dear When To Throw In The Towel,
Based on my experience treating couples, here's five quick tips that work well to tell if your relationship is on the rocks and in need of a life raft:
1.) You fight more than half the time. It's not fighting, but the way you do battle that matters. There's healthy and unhealthy fighting. All couples argue. But if the disagreements are usually hostile, demeaning, and critical, especially if one of the partners feels unsafe (emotionally or physically), then you want to seek professional assistance.
2.) If one of the partners is pulling away or withdrawing from the relationship much of the time. This is when communication is shut down. This is a passive aggressive way to channel anger. A partner could be glued to the Internet, TV, treadmill, or work instead of talking, working things out, and spending quality time with their partner.
3.) Sexual problems. This could mean no intimacy, no sex, or cheating. If you haven't had sex in more than a few months, than professional intervention is a good idea.
4.) Emotional problems. This could mean one of the partners has been affected with lowered esteem, a depressed mood, anxiety, or is abusing a substance as a result of the relationship problems.
5.) When you're staying just for the house, money, pets, family, or other reason.
People avoid couples counseling because they fear finding out their relationship isn't right for them. This reluctance gets them stuck in an unhealthy situation. Instead, couples need to pursue treatment to find out if their relationship is fixable or not. If it isn't, then it's healthier to get out of it.
All The Best, Angelo.
I've been dating this guy for awhile and I really like him. Problem is, he wants a commitment, and I'm afraid to do that. What should I do?
In general, guys are known to be commitment phobes. Giving up personal freedom, having to pass on potential partners, having unrealistic expectations, and feeling uncertain about "the one," are only a few of the possible reasons. Moreover, American men are challenged to override manly pressures to be tough, unemotional, and independent (separate) in order to be more relational. It seems much easier for men to let their hard masculine guard down in the presence of a woman, than it is for two men to do this with one another. It's not just straight men that face this challenge. Ironically, gay men often freak out when faced with true intimacy that goes beyond sex with another gay man. Additionally, it can be hard for gay men to meet other gay men for something meaningful and lasting. So gay men can face real obstacles in forging deep lasting intimacy with one another. Nevertheless, it is a worthwhile endeavor. For being in a healthy relationship is one of life's treasures.
To triumph, you can choose to confront your fear of intimacy head on.
If you imagine a crowd chasing you, you might be compelled to run away. Problem is, you could be running for the rest of your life. This leaves you out of control, anxious, fearful, not to mention exhausted. Instead, you could choose to stop, take your power, and turn around to face the crowd. Once you face them, they will begin to stand down, parting ways for you to pass through.
It's the same with fear. You can run away from it, or stand and face it down. With all of her years of experience giving advice, Ann Landers said, "If I were asked to give what I consider the single most useful bit of advice for all humanity, it would he this: Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and when it comes, hold your head high, look it squarely in the eye and say, 'I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.'" So you have to enter into the experience of the committed relationship in order to learn about and defeat your intimacy fears.
For more solutions on the topic of gay relationships, pick up your copy of my new book Straight Acting - Gay Men, Masculinity And Finding True Love available through www.askangelo.com.
All The Best, Angelo.
The Gay Man's Therapist
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